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Management of diseases with complex inheritance

Most health problems in dogs have a complex mechanism of inheritance. Genetic screening strategies do not exist for these conditions.  Breeders are encouraged to share health data within the breed community, and to participate in any breed health surveys initiated by the breed clubs, state Canine bodies, or the ANKC.

Open disclosure of health data is warmly supported for the following conditions of interest to the Finnish Lapphund community:

  • Autoimmune diseases (Hypothyroidism, Addison's Disease, Cushing's, Diabetes)

  • Allergies and Atopy.

  • Disorders of temperament, aggression or undue timidity.

  • Early onset PRA of unknown type (high priority)

  • Epilepsy

  • Unexplained early death

  • Congenital heart disease

  • Malocclusion/overshot/undershot bites.  

  • Cryptorchidism/monorchidism

  • Osteogenesis imperfecta or other structural malformations in puppies.


New breeders should be well versed in the disease incidence within their own breeding stock, even for very rare and poorly predictable conditions.  Consulting veterinary experts in heritability of disease, breed mentors, State Breed Club Health officers and referring to the breeding criteria of the Finnish Lapphund club is strongly recommended. For most of the conditions listed above, affected dogs should not be bred from. First degree relatives should also not be bred from in some cases.  



Fortunately, the Finnish Lapphund is a healthy breed but there are several rare health conditions with a complex underlying genetic/environmental mixed aetiology.  The goal of the JTO is NOT to decrease the incidence of all diseases. That would not be possible. The goal is to ensure that rare diseases remain rare and do not increase. In contrast, breeders should be aware that eye diseases and epilepsy are target diseases where the goal is to decrease the incidence of disease.  


In Finland, epilepsy is currently the subject of a breed-wide effort to decrease disease incidence. An ‘estimated breeding value’ or EBV scheme similar to the system used for hips is being planned.. This will ensure that over many generations, combinations of breeding pairs will have have ‘better than breed average’ likelihood of remaining epilepsy-free. The slow and gradual decrease in the incidence of epilepsy is the goal.  This type of breed improvement is only possible in circumstances where there is high disclosure of the disease and good centralised data collection.


In Australia, a multi-pronged approach to known diseases is recommended, including a commitment to low levels of inbreeding, transparent data collection to allow good breeding decisions across the entire breed community, and ongoing research into the aetiology of disease clusters.  A better approach to reporting of puppies who fail to thrive or are stillborn would be of great value to the breed.


The FLCNSW actively supports research into PRA of unknown cause. This rare but serious condition has an early onset. Identification of the underlying aetiology is one of the highest priorities for the breed in Australia, and if a gene is identified, the discovery is likely to be of benefit for the international Finnish Lapphund community.


The FLCNSW is working towards the establishment of a permanently accessible breed health survey for owners and breeders to voluntarily share health information, including good health news such as active, healthy old age.

(Supported by JTO, FLCNSW, FCI)

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